State Medical Examiner: 414 People Died of Drug Overdose in 2015

Feb 11, 2016

As state officials feared, drug overdose deaths rose significantly in New Hampshire last year, to well over 400 cases.

The latest data from the state's medical examiner show that 414 people suffered fatal overdoses in 2015, up from 326 in 2014 and 192 the year before.

Nearly two-thirds of the deaths involved fentanyl, either alone or combined with other drugs, including heroin. Heroin-related deaths accounted for about one in five of all fatal overdoses.

The rise in fentanyl has been especially worrisome to state officials. The drug is often prescribed legally for cancer-related pain, but an illicit analog of the substance can also make its way into illegal drugs - in many cases, unbeknownst to the drug dealer or user. 

"We don't even know until we analyze it — is that heroin, fentanyl, a combination of the two?" state forensic lab director Timothy Pifer told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen during a tour of the facility last year

It can take several months to fully process the toxicology results for drug-related deaths, so the latest numbers can change. The medical examiner's office says it's still reviewing about 22 additional cases from 2015.

For a fuller picture of the causes behind the drug deaths reported in recent years, see the interactive below.